Atlanta Federal Criminal Child Pornography Cases: Part of a National Trend

February 27, 2013 by Paul Kish

Federal criminal charges are being brought against a series of Atlanta-based employees of schools. Here and here are some stories. We represent one of the people accused in these matters, which are very difficult to defend. These cases are part of an ever-expanding national trend. We have done many such cases, involving doctors, federal employees, computer programmers, salesmen and others. No matter what business our client is in, all of these cases require sensitivity, compassion, along with a willingness to try new tactics in the right situation.

Many of these cases involve clients with eerily similar backgrounds. Many of our clients are men who have been happily and successfully married for many years. These men often are exemplary fathers. I recall one poignant sentencing hearing where the 20-something daughters of our client made such fantastic speeches that the Judge commented how as a feminist she could not help but praise our client and his wife for raising such amazing daughters. After the sentencing hearing, that Judge even took off her robe, and came down to spend some time with the wife and daughters.

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The Fourth Amendment in the Modern Age: Supreme Court Looks at DNA Samples Taken From Everybody Who Gets Arrested

February 26, 2013 by Paul Kish

Here we go again, the intersection of the Eighteenth Century concept of privacy enshrined in our Fourth Amendment (no searches or seizures except when done pursuant to a warrant based on probable cause) versus the modern "CSI" world where investigators take biological shards to solve the most difficult of crimes. Today, the Supreme Court hears arguments in Marlyand v. King.

Most of the states along with the federal government have laws that provide for automatic DNA collection from people at the time of their arrest. The King case argued today asks the question whether it is unconstitutional to do that without a warrant, for the sole purpose of checking the DNA against a national DNA crime scene database.

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Bankers Get Indicted: New Crimes still require Old Approaches

February 25, 2013 by Paul Kish

More and more both here in Atlanta and around the country we see news stories about bankers getting indicted, financial professionals being accused of fraud, and other white collar criminal actions brought against people working in the financial sector. Also, in a recent post, I wrote about a federal criminal case where the indictment did not even charge a federal crime, yet none of the lawyers nor judges noticed the problems until the judges on the Court of Appeals brought up the issue after the case was on appeal. The combination of these two stories reminded me of how important it is for lawyers to carefully scrutinize the charging documents when the attorney is defending a person in the financial industry against criminal charges.

This also reminded me about a case we had a couple of years ago where we represented a young banker here in Georgia. Back when the real estate market was flying high, he was a superstar, bringing in millions of dollars in loans to developers who were fueling the Atlanta housing boom. When the market began getting soft, he was dismayed by how his bosses were treating him, so he took his book of business to another local bank. The bosses at the first bank did an "investigation", and turned over to the authorities the dirt they had supposedly uncovered on this young banker. The local District Attorney thought he'd be a star also, and could get his name in the papers by indicting a banker just as the housing market was collapsing. They accused our client of claiming in memos to the loan committee that his developer/clients were putting 10% into the deals, when in fact they were not. The DA then got an indictment that charged our client with making "false entries" in the "books reports or statements" of a financial institution.

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Federal Criminal Convictions Reversed Even When Lawyers Failed to Make Argument: No One Bothered to Look at Whether the Defendant's Actions Were "Contrary to Law"

February 24, 2013 by Paul Kish

In an amazing opinion issued in Atlanta by the Eleventh Circuit, the court reversed a series of federal criminal convictions because the indictment did not even charge a crime. And, they did so even though none of the lawyers for either side bothered to address whether the indictment properly charged a federal criminal offense! The whole issue came down to whether the Defendant's actions were "contrary to law", and because they were not, the court of appeals reversed all their convictions.

The Defendants and their company imported dairy products into the U.S. from Central America. Apparently, several of their imported products were contaminated with E. Coli and salmonella.

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Doctor and Pharmacist Prosecuted in Federal Court for Over-Prescribing Pain Pills: Eleventh Circuit Affirms Convictions

February 23, 2013 by Paul Kish

My law partner, Carl Lietz, has previously had good results when we represented medical doctors accused of over-prescribing pain medication. He has written earlier posts on this subject. We are seeing more and more of these cases, as shown by recent press releases and news reports. Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, just a few blocks away here in Atlanta, affirmed the conviction of a doctor, a pharmacist, and a physician's assistant for conspiracy and dozens of counts of over-prescribing pain medications. The case is United States v. Joseph.

The case was prosecuted in the Middle District of Georgia where Dr. Green ran a clinic. His Physician's Assistant was Ms. Mack, and most of the prescriptions were filled by a local pharmacist, Mr. Joseph. The Court of Appeals' opinion recounts the usual evidence we see in such cases involving "pill mills", hundreds of patients paying in cash or credit cards, no insurance, patients traveling long distances just to go this particular clinic, and limited or non-existent medical exams prior to writing or re-filling prescriptions for addictive pain medications.

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Federal Crimes on Airplanes: Flying is not as fun anymore

February 22, 2013 by Paul Kish

Recent publicity about airline passengers accused of federal crimes while on airplanes (such as the executive accused of hitting a crying child while on a Delta flight arriving here in Atlanta) got me to thinking about how flying has changed over the years. It's much less fun, that's for sure. The recent publicity reminded me also that over the years I have represented many people accused of crimes while on airplanes. The federal prosecutors are bringing more and more criminal cases based on actions of passengers in airplanes. Such cases are challenging, even though on occasion we have been able to get good results for our clients.

I recall one case where our client was accused of basically "touching himself" while sitting next to a couple of teenage girls. We had a long trial, a challenging sentencing hearing, but all along I had hope that we might prevail. We lost, but not until we made the other side work very hard. Here is the final ruling by the Court of Appeals. I still think we were right.

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U.S. Supreme Court says that Double Jeopardy Clause prevents retrial when trial judge erroneously granted acquittal at Defendant's first trial

February 21, 2013 by Paul Kish

Both in federal criminal cases here in Atlanta and around the country, as well as in the state court proceedings we handle throughout Georgia, we occasionally deal with issues relating to "Double Jeopardy," the portion of the Fifth Amendment that says prosecutors only get one bite at the apple. Yesterday, by a 8-1 vote, the United States Supreme Court continued to protect all of us against multiple prosecutions by holding there cannot be a second trial even when the judge made a mistake by erroneously granting an acquittal to the Defendant in the first trial. The case is Evans v. Michigan.

Mr. Evans was accused of setting a building on fire. One Michigan law makes it a crime to burn a dwelling, while a second law makes it a crime to burn "other real property." At the close of the evidence, the Defendant's lawyer pointed to standard jury instructions which require proof that the property was a "non-dwelling" before a person could be convicted of the crime of burning "other real property." The trial judge, noting that the property owner said the building WAS a dwelling, granted an acquittal for the Defendant because the prosecution had failed to prove the property was NOT a dwelling. It turns out the trial judge was completely wrong, in that burning "other real property" is a lesser-included offense of the greater crime of burning a dwelling. The prosecution appealed, and Michigan's appellate courts decided that a second trial was OK, even despite the protections from the Double Jeopardy Clause.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed, holding that retrial following a court-decreed acquittal is barred, even if the acquittal was based upon an egregiously erroneous foundation. An "acquittal" includes any ruling that the prosecution’s proof is insufficient to establish criminal liability for an offense. This is different from procedural rulings, which lead to dismissals or mistrials for reasons unrelated to factual guilt or innocence. An acquittal is a substantive ruling that concludes proceedings absolutely, and thus raise significant Double Jeopardy concerns. Here, the trial court clearly evaluated the prosecution's evidence and determined that it was legally insufficient to sustain a conviction. While the acquittal was the product of an erroneous interpretation of governing legal principles, that error affects only the accuracy of the determination to acquit, not its essential character.

Along the way, the Supreme Court addressed the prosecution's argument that Mr. Evans got a "windfall", and he should not get the benefit of a real bonehead ruling by the trial judge. The U.S. Supreme Court was unimpressed, noting that States and the federal government have the power to prevent such situations by disallowing the practice of midtrial acquittals, encouraging courts to defer consideration of a motion to acquit until after the jury renders a verdict, or providing for mandatory continuances or expedited interlocutory appeals. The bottom line: the Double Jeopardy Clause remains intact as one of the bulwarks protecting individuals from multiple prosecutions, even when the first case was erroneously decided against the prosecution.

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Supreme Court decision in federal criminal case: Court sides with Defendant and says that police cannot search person who left scene prior to execution of search warrant

February 20, 2013 by Paul Kish

Because we do lots of federal criminal cases, many of them here in Atlanta and throughout Georgia, Alabama and Florida, we therefore pay close attention to such matters when they work their way to the United States Supreme Court. One such case is Bailey v. United States, a situation we discussed in an earlier on this blog. Yesterday, in a 6-3 decision written by Justice Kennedy, the Supreme Court agreed with the defense position, holding that when the police are at a location to execute a search warrant, the police do not have the right to stop and then search a person who already left the premises just before they began searching.

The issue in Bailey stems from a prior ruling issued thirty-one years ago, Michigan v. Summers. In that case, the Supreme Court decided that officers executing a search warrant for contraband may detain the occupants of the premises while the search is conducted. However, over the past three decades, there has been a big conflict among federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort about whether the rule of Summers permits detaining individual who has left the immediate vicinity of the premises before the warrant is executed.

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Going to the Dogs: Supremes Says Lack of Performance Records for Drug-Dog Doesn't Invalidate Search

February 19, 2013 by Paul Kish

The Supreme Court today issued one of the two dog cases on its docket, Florida v. Harris. Recall that we blogged on this case when it was accepted for review. In today's unanimous ruling, the Supreme Court held that just because there are no performance records for how a dog does in the field, this by itself does not mean that a dog's positive alert cannot form the basis for a probable cause search.

The pooch in this case is "Aldo." His handler obviously had it out for Mr. Harris. The officer stopped Harris two times, and had Aldo run around the truck, sniffing for the odors of dope, etc. The first time, Aldo "alerted", but the officer did not find any of the substances for which the dog was trained to alert. However, they did find chemicals used to make methamphetamine, so they arrested Harris. The same officer again stopped Harris while the latter was out on bail. Once again, the loyal pooch ran around the vehicle, again alerted, but this time no illegal substances or precursors were discovered.

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